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Best Violins

Updated May 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 13 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 135 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best violins

    Last Updated May 2018

    You might start out sounding like you've invited a choir of brawling cats into your home, but don't lose heart – the right violin can help you progress from "Pop Goes the Weasel" to Paganini.

    What makes a good violin, and how do you find the right one for you? At BestReviews, we are here to help you find out. The most expensive violin sold for around $16 million at auction; that’s a bit more than the average person can afford. Rather than robbing a bank to pay for your new instrument, we can assist you in finding a quality violin that offers you great value for your money.

    As part of our research, we consulted a wide range of violin owners who have real experience using the instruments we recommend over extended periods of time.

    Read on for our full guide to violins to discover all you need to know to select the perfect instrument for you.

    The best violins tend to be made from naturally aged woods, which are thought to have a better tone and resonance.

    Violin quality

    As with most things in life, you tend to get what you pay for with violins. You can find basic violins for under a hundred dollars, and you can find high-end violins that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

    Here we examine violins by quality, discover their pros and cons, and look at average prices.

    Entry-level violins

    • Entry-level violins are sometimes referred to as "student violins" and are designed for beginners and those still in the earlier stages of learning to play.

    • You'll find that entry-level violins are made from cheaper woods and tend to have plastic components, such as tailpieces and chin rests.

    • The cheapest entry-level violins cost less than $100. However, we recommend spending at least $100 to $200 to get a reasonable model.

    • Higher-end entry-level violins are designed for people who want an instrument of better quality but aren't quite ready for an intermediate instrument. These can cost $200 to $600.

    Some beginners choose to rent an entry-level violin, but this usually works out to be more expensive in the long run, as you'll eventually want to buy your own instrument.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Intermediate violins

    • Intermediate violins are designed for experienced players who want a high-quality instrument but can't quite stretch their budget to cover a professional-level violin.

    • While some intermediate violins are mass-produced, pricier options may be handcrafted by a luthier, a professional maker of stringed instruments.

    • Intermediate violins are made from quality wood. Most have wooden chin rests and tailpieces.

    • Expect to pay anywhere between $800 and $5,000 for an intermediate violin.

    Intermediate and professional violins don't tend to come with a bow and case. Remember to factor in these extra costs if you’re buying an intermediate or professional violin.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Professional violins

    • Professional violins are high-end instruments used by world-class concert violinists and orchestra members.

    • Professional violins are generally handcrafted by a top luthier from the finest materials.

    • Average professional violins cost between $5,000 and $10,000. The best of the best can cost over $25,000. Some sought-after vintage professional violins can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.

    EXPERT TIP

    While this guide focuses on traditional acoustic violins, you can also buy electric violins that come with built-in pickups. These violins can be plugged into amplifiers.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Violin woods

    The wood used to make a violin is one of the most important factors in how it sounds. It's not as simple as just using a single wood, however. Different woods are used for different parts of the violin.

    • Spruce is usually used to make the top (the front of the violin's body), the lining, and the blocks inside the body of the instrument. It's chosen for its pleasant-sounding resonance and attractive grain.

    • Maple is the most common choice for making the back, ribs, neck, and scroll of the violin. Old-growth European maple (particularly from the former Yugoslav region) is often considered the premier choice, but luthiers are increasingly seeing North American maple as a solid choice.

    • Ebony is usually used for the fingerboard, pegs, tailpiece, and end pin, since it's lightweight but hard-wearing. However, boxwood and rosewood are decent alternatives.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The woods used to make violins are sometimes referred to as "tonewoods," as they're chosen for the quality of the tone they produce. Some basic violins use cheaper alternatives to ebony for the fingerboard that are dyed black.

    Violin sizes

    Violins come in a range of sizes, with models smaller than full-size designed for use by children. Most people of 11 years or older can handle a 4/4 (full-size) violin, but you'll need to measure younger children to determine which violin size they require.

    With the player's left arm fully extended and held away from her body, take a measurement from the base of her neck to her wrist. Then, consult the list below to find the appropriate size.

    • Players with a measurement of 23 inches or greater will need a 4/4 violin.

    • Players with a measurement of 22 inches will need a 3/4 violin.

    • Players with a measurement of 20 inches will need a 1/2 violin.

    • Players with a measurement of 18 1/2 inches will need a 1/4 violin.

    • Players with a measurement of 16 1/2 inches will need a 1/8 violin.

    • Players with a measurement of 15 inches will need a 1/10 violin.

    • Players with a measurement of 14 inches will need a 1/16 violin.

    • Players with a measurement of 13 inches will need a 1/32 violin.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you're buying a violin for a child who sits between the measurements for two different sizes, consider how quickly he'll grow into a too-large violin versus how quickly he'll grow out of a too-small violin.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    New vs. vintage violins

    If you're looking for an intermediate or professional violin, you might be confronted with the choice between a new and a vintage instrument.

    Some people claim violins age well and that vintage models play more nicely and produce a richer tone. However, much of this may just be misty romanticism.

    Studies suggest that even elite professional violinists are often unable to distinguish vintage Stradivarius violins from high-end modern instruments in blind tests.

    New violins, on the other hand, tend to produce a more uniform tone over all four strings and are generally cheaper than vintage instruments of comparable quality.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    A violin that comes with a bow and a case included is known as an "outfit."

    Tips

    • Decide whether you want your violin to come with a range of accessories. At the very least, you'll need a bow and a case to go with your violin. Some violins are sold in a bundle with various accessories, which may be cheaper and more straightforward than buying everything separately.

    • Think about what you want from a violin. A beginner is going to have very different needs from a player who's studying music at college or plays professionally.

    • Check the return policy for your chosen violin. Sometimes finding the right violin is about feel. Just a few extra millimeters on the neck can make the difference between your perfect instrument and something that feels awkward to play. Make sure you can easily return your new violin if it's not quite right.

    • Consider whether you really love it. Since you might be using your new violin for decades to come, there's no point spending a significant chunk of money on an instrument that you don't get pleasure from.

    To get the very best sound from your instrument, we recommend having your violin set up by a professional.

    FAQ

    Q. Will my violin hold its value?

    A. Don't be afraid to invest in a violin that you'll eventually want to upgrade; a well-chosen entry-level violin should hold its value quite well. This means you can sell it for close to what you bought it for when the time comes to upgrade to a better model, especially if you keep it in good condition. Some intermediate and professional violins will actually appreciate in value over the years.

    Q. How do I care for my violin to keep it in good condition?

    A. Once you've purchased your violin, make sure you take good care of it. Violins are relatively delicate instruments, and improper care can cause serious damage over time. There's more to violin care than we have space to talk about here, so we recommend every violin owner does some thorough research into violin care. We do, however, have a few tips to get you started.

    • Keep your violin free of dirt and dust, using only violin-friendly cleaning products.

    • Change the strings on your violin once every six to 12 months.

    • Don't expose your violin to extreme hot or cold for extended periods of time to avoid cracks and/or warping.

    • Violins should ideally be stored at between 45% and 50% relative humidity. Consider getting a humidifier or dehumidifier if you're serious about keeping your instrument in top-notch condition.

    Q. I'm a beginner. Where do I start with learning to play the violin?

    A. The violin is a complex and nuanced instrument, which can be overwhelming for the beginner. If you're completely new to playing violin, we recommend taking at least a short course of lessons from a professional violin teacher. However, you can also find a wide range of resources for beginner violinists in books and online.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Michael
      Michael
      Writer